Woman in the gym with overtraining symptoms

Too Much of a Good Thing, Part I: Burnout

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you were going non-stop? Meetings, deadlines, family, chores, social obligations, to-do lists, appointments. By the time Sunday rolls around, you’re too tired to even sleep. If this sounds familiar, then you know burnout. But while everyday life can cause burnout, medical professionals have noticed it in athletes and those of us committed to rigorous fitness or training routines. Whether it’s the nature of your sport or your exercise regiment, too much over too long a period of time can have negative impacts on your physical and mental health.

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a medically recognized phenomenon that occurs as a response to prolonged and intense stress without adequate relief. It’s characterized by mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion—a three-pronged attack on one’s overall well-being. Whether it be strenuous exercise programs, long training sessions, or back-to-back games or practices, many athletes are often consumed by the demands of their sport both physically and mentally. 

Symptoms of Burnout

Though it may be hard to recognize symptoms of burnout in others at first, they eventually make themselves known. Be sure to contact your physical therapist for help managing your immediate physical symptoms. Additionally, reach out to a mental health care professional for additional resources. If you or a fellow athlete start showing any of the following signs of burnout, notify your trainer or coach before they get any worse. 

  • Dedicating a majority of their time to a sport or fitness regiment
  • Irritability, anxiousness, disinterest, and depression
  • Feeling “trapped” by obligations to their sport, routine, or teammates
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Drop off in motivation and performance
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Insomnia or irregular sleep patterns
  • Low self-confidence and sense of self-worth

How to Avoid Burnout

The good news is that burnout is avoidable. The key is to make time to rest and modify training routines to accommodate other obligations and extracurricular activities. It’s also important to educate yourself and your team about burnout—you never know who needs to hear it!

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